'Poison Summer Tour 2003'
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI – May 29, 2003)
And so the tradition continues - it’s Friday, 4 p.m. and the parking lot of DTE is starting to fill with straggling tailgaters. Blaming the rain clouds lurking overhead for the lower-amount-than-normal, I make my way backstage to see what’s going on before the big night.
Sitting on the back deck, people are scurrying about with last minute preparations, whilst my boss interviews two members of Skid Row and Poison's very own Rikki Rocket! Back in the parking lot, more tailgaters have descended and my faith in the masses is restored for our yearly hair band event!
Heading back into the venue, Skid Row takes the stage to pump up the Detroit Rock City fans. Not sure what to expect from the band since the departure of Sebastian Bach, I have to admit that any doubts I may have had were abandoned instantly. New lead singer, Johnny Solinger carries the band and himself to a new level of metal more akin to the metal bands of today. Although still playing some of the group’s older tunes, it is those from the new album Thickskin that really highlight the bands transformation.
The second act of the night is Vince Neil, former lead singer of one of the more noteworthy hair metal bands of the '80s, Motley Crue. Neil, who surprisingly looks very much the same as he always did - sans the additional waistline girth these days - keeps the ever-growing audience rocking. Singing songs mostly from his days with the Crue, such as 'Dr. Feelgood', 'Wild Side,' and their old anthem, 'Shout At The Devil', I had to wonder if Neil truly wants a solo career or if he is just trying to piss off Nikki Sixx - whom he hinted as the reason for the band’s break up on a recent Howard Stern Show appearance!?
As the threat of rain prowls the skies like a demented caged animal, Poison blast their way onto the stage with one of their most beloved hits, 'Talk Dirty to Me'. The now packed venue goes insane, from the top of the hill all the way down to the front row. Following with The Who classic, 'Squeezebox' from 2002’s Hollyweird album and the Flesh and Blood cut, 'Ride The Wind', lead singer Bret Michaels exclaims that "Detroit is where the summer party begins”. It is easy to see the mutual love between band and city as Poison shocks everyone by playing oldies such as 'I Won’t Forget You' and the crowd-pleaser 'Fallen Angel' - the former a song they have not played live in over 15 years!
As things quieten slightly, Bret gives a patriotic speech giving thanks to the soldiers serving the United States overseas. He then dedicates the ponderous 'Something To Believe In' to them all. Lighters are now ablaze instantly changing the scenery from that of a rocking crowd to one that would scare the Fire Marshall into requiring new pants!
The crowd, still on their feet from the very first struck chord, stay there as each member of the group next reveals an individual talent so immense that it is easy to understand why, as a band, their music is so powerful and everlasting. Most notable of these was lead guitarist C.C. Deville's attempt at resurrecting the spectre of the late, great Jimi Hendrix with some magical guitar riffs.
After Bret proclaims his fondness for Detroit ("You guys make me hard”) they continue musically onwards with such songs as the previously-not-sung-in-an-age 'Stand' from '93s under-rated Native Tongue and more known classics such as both 'Unskinny Bop,' 'Every Rose Has It's Thorn' and the '86 ultra-classic, 'Look What The Cat Dragged In'.
Bringing the musical juggernaut home with the Kiss / Detroit Rock City classic, 'I Want to Rock and Roll All Night', for their one-song encore the guys come back with 'Nothing But A Good Time'.
As the band leaves the stage for the final time, Bret's words of “Detroit City. We love you” still reverberating through the mic, he suddenly - which is now the Detroit custom - invites every single last person in the crowd to their upcoming Toledo show for FREE!
And so the love affair continues, and hopefully for many years to come.
Reviewed by G.M. Pasfield
Live Poison Photos by Russell A. Trunk